More school leavers choosing other options than university

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Rising numbers of school leavers are pursuing alternative options to university, new figures suggest.

The number of people applying for schemes such as apprenticeships and vocational courses through one website has more than doubled in the space of a year, it has been revealed.

The increase comes amid the trebling of university tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 per year and calls by business leaders for young people to be encouraged to take more apprenticeships and business-related courses.

Figures published by show that around 115,000 applications to school-leaver schemes have been made through the site in the last 12 months, up from 56,000 between August 2011 and July 2012. This includes apprenticeships, college courses, vocational training programmes and job vacancies.

The number of advertised roles on the website have increased by 30 per cent in the last year, it added, and in total there are more than 5,000 options for youngsters who decide they do not want to go into higher education.

The top five most applied for sectors through are accountancy, engineering, information technology, hospitality and childcare.

Around 300,000 teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to receive their A-level results next week, and will be making decisions about whether to take up university places, find a job, or go into another type of training.

Sarah Clover, operations director at, said: “University isn’t an option for everybody, whether that’s down to finances, results or simply because the young person doesn’t want to go. We want people to know that, whilst a good option for some, university isn’t the be all and end all.”

A report published by the CBI last month warned that the “default’’ traditional university route taken by most teenagers is not enough to provide all the degree-level skills required by major industries.

The UK’s young people must be encouraged to take more apprenticeships, ‘“sandwich’’ degree courses that include a year in industry, shorter and part-time degrees to tackle the chronic shortage of suitably qualified workers, the business group said.

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: “We need to tackle the perception that A-levels and a three year degree is the only route to a good career.

“Faced with the £30,000 debt and a tougher job market, sixth formers are much more savvy in shopping around for options which give them the edge. Top-quality training, a guaranteed job and avoiding tuition loans is a big carrot to dangle.”

She added: “Universities need to design courses with industry and be much more flexible in offering compressed one or two year degrees; part-time study; and sandwich courses to take advantage 
of young people’s shift in demand”.